On watching our little tadpoles in the school swim gala

All the parents from Son2’s year were invited yesterday to watch the swim demo.

There are some remarkable swimmers among school children in Dubai – given that they swim so regularly, both at school and for fun, it wouldn’t surprise me if the next Michael Phelps came from the emirate. These seven-year-olds make it look easy, slicing through the water like fish, their arms thrashing away as though controlled by a metronome. The smooth strokes of the kids in swim squad are a pleasure to watch.

But (and this might just be me), after dropping Son2 off, my heart did sink a little at not being able to go straight home and get on with all the things I need to do before the long summer holiday kicks in. (I’ll bet I’m not the only knackered mum who feels like the holiday is hurtling towards us like a freight train.)

Is that you, Son2? Hard to tell.
Is that you, Son2? Hard to tell.

The demo started at 8.10am, which meant that between drop off and taking our positions round the edge of the pool, there were a few spare minutes to grab a quick Costa and move the car to a proper parking place. Of course, this all took longer than I’d expected, and so when I got to the sparkling pool, it was standing room only.

The turquoise water was clear, the kids excited. It was hot, but in the shade it was bearable. There were benches set out, and a clever cooling device – a sort-of sprinkler-fan – whipped the air with puffs of cool mist that caught the light from time to time. Birds wheeled and chirped overhead.

I stood next to my friend T, who’d already been for a jog round the school perimeter. “Really?” I exclaimed, still tasting the buttery croissant I’d scoffed at Costa.

Across the water, sixty children sat cross-legged – all wearing blue-and-white swimming uniform and swim caps. And herein lay my problem. It was almost impossible to work out which one was my son. Even when they stood up in small groups, and dived in, the combination of dazzling sunshine and regulation plastic caps made it difficult to distinguish between them. Once in the pool, the churning water, arm thrashing and splashing hardly helped.

My goggles fit perfectly, said no child everAn hour of watching endless races in which my son may or may not have been participating went by. Circles of perspiration had begun to form on the parents’ clothes. I pitied the men in suits. By now, the temperature must have hit the mid-90s.

But kudos to us – the parents’ enthusiasm didn’t wane. There was cheering and noise. The ‘swim mums (and dads)’ were easy to spot. “Go!” “Kick harder!” I wasn’t joking when I said there’s Olympic potential. I’m quite sure some of the mums were multi-tasking – watching their little ’un swim like a silver fish jumping upstream while also keeping one eye on their smartphone seeking out prospective endorsement deals*.

As enjoyable as it was, I was quite relieved to slink off home before we all melted, having escaped the rumoured ‘parents’ race’.

Later, I found myself in trouble, though. “Mum!” cried Son2 at pick-up time. He had his indignant voice on. “You weren’t watching. You didn’t see me win! Mum! WHY WEREN’T YOU WATCHING?”

* As an aside, did you know that Phelps’ 6ft 7in arm span is greater than his height; his lung capacity is double the average man’s; and his size 14 feet are more like flippers?

Leave a Reply